Skip to main content

tv   Book TV  CSPAN  March 12, 2011 8:00am-9:00am EST

8:00 am
[inaudible conversations] >> welcome to c-span's booktv. we have you covered on history, biography and public affairs by nonfiction authors. ..
8:01 am
>> go to >> next on book t, vietnam -- book t, vietnam book veteran bing west us thes his book, "the wrong war." mr. west argues that a reliance on counterinsurgency strategy has led the u.s. astray in afghanistan. >> what i'd like to do in about the next 20 minutes is give you an overview of two things relative to afghanistan, and the first is what is the nature of the war, and the second is what is the strategy, and why do i call it the wrong war? the nature of the war i base on i have about ten years, now, on
8:02 am
battlefields in vietnam, iraq and afghanistan, and as barbara said, generals are okay and secretaries of defense and presidents may have roles, but they better keep their egos under control because tolstoy in his book "war and peace" really had it right. what actually happens in war has much more to do with the tenacity of those who are fighting than it does with the pronouncements from on high. and i'll try to show you why. i'd like to just bring you through very quickly what the war looks like, how the strategy's embedded in it and then turn it over for questions. of most of my time in afghanistan, i've been there -- i'm just about to go back for my tenth trip. i i probably have about 18 months altogether, ten trips in the last four years, and i spend them all with the platoons, army, marines, special forces
8:03 am
outfits and associated afghan units. and i generally have been up in the mountains. that's the hindu hindu/kush aren afghanistan. unfortunately, we've been pushed out of there, and the cofar where you're -- konar where you're looking at mountains that are 10,000 feet high. the other half of my time i spend down in the south where the other x is. this is where with mule la omar and -- mullah o ma and the -- omar and the taliban began their attacks, and this is entirely different. this is an alouvre y'all plane that is extraordinarily similar in the terrain to vietnam. now, 90% of the fighting takes place between those two xs along the pakistani border. the rest of afghanistan is not as well involved because this issue is an issue of the pashtuns. the pashtun tribe which is along
8:04 am
the boarder and also on the pakistani side accounts for about 90% of the taliban and 90% of the insurgency. the issue in the north is shown by this particular picture. this is the famous valley that the movie, my friend sebastian younger did the movie, and although i was just in new york city, and i was teasing them. they were on their way to be with the stars, but i was going to be with you. [laughter] any of you looking at this it wouldn't take too long if i said to you, now, why don't we just take a drive down that road, and, oh, by the way, all the tribes are unfriendly, and they're up on the hillsides. and you would all say to me immediately, bing, that's not your smartest idea. we did that, and for four years
8:05 am
we attempted to get the valley under control, and we couldn't. because we cannot close with the enemies in the mountains. all of our troops are wearing 80 pounds of armor. the enemy is not wearing any armor, so there's no way you can ever catch him up many those mountains. so as a result, when you think of the war in the north, a long distance war. for instance, we were being shot at when i took this picture from where the smoke is on the other side, and it looks like that's only 600 meters away, but you'd have to go down 2,000 feet and up 2,000 feet on the other side so get there, and if you really were in good shape, you could get there in about seven hours. so it's a lot of long distance shooting that can go on forever because this is the famous durand line. i took this picture, and you notice there is this particular fort right here. well, that was a taliban fort, and they were moving up every night to the border because that's pakistan, and then they
8:06 am
were coming over and taking mules and bringing their ammunition down and shooting at this colonel and his battalion. so the colonel said to me, hey, bing, we'll go up along the border. with any luck, he said, one of those dumb son of a bitches will shoot at us, and if he does, then i can shoot back because it's self-defense. we stood there and looked at them, and all they did was wave to us. [laughter] this is a vast sanctuary that extends for 1500 miles. and you notice, notice the road. they drove every night up that road and then unloaded their ammo and came across the border. so the other problem you have in dealing with afghanistan is called pakistan. 1500 miles. i mean, that extends from here to miami. now let's understand the essence of what we're doing. we went in 2001 pause the taliban -- because the taliban had supported al-qaeda who had
8:07 am
killed 3,000 americans at the world trade center. so we went in to get those son of a guns. but what happened? in my judgment, several things happened. president bush, god bless him, had this religious belief in liberty for people, and i think he, he confused that with his role of president, and he took that and extracted it and said we should give liberty, also, to the iraqis and to the afghans which is a noble idea. but if you're a president, sometimes you have to be pretty hard-headed about how you put an idea into action, and we weren't able quite to do it. so when they looked around to say, well, who's going to -- who's really going to do this idea? they said, well, we have this thing called the united states military. so what happened was we took counterinsurgency, and that's something i know an awful lot
8:08 am
about because i fought it really hard for many, many months. but we perverted it, and we turned it into nation building that was based on a social contract. and that social contract was that the united states of america would give to the people money and as much security as we could. in money we give about $14 billion a year. and in return we expected them to turn against the taliban. and all we really wanted them to do more than anything else was just tell us who among them was the taliban. because since everyone is wearing civilian clothes and we don't speak pashtun, we have no idea who among you is about to shoot me. but if you help me and point out who the mafia is among you, i'll take care of the mafia for you. that was the deal. that was the social contract that underlay everything we've been doing for ten years. and i'll show you what happened.
8:09 am
you had something called tribal loyalty. look at this picture. this is a place called that was 500 meters outside a base, and for four years the battalions who rotated through that base what do you want, we'll help you, and occasionally you'd get sniper shots. they were never able to persuade the people. so about a year and a half ago they said, well, the american battalion commander who was really kind-spirited said i'll come in and help you with your mosque. and as we were driving in, look at this. here are the kids. and those kids are about 12, 13 years of age. they were coming out on the road as fast as we were going in this and putting -- look at the size of those rocks. i mean, these are tough little
8:10 am
kids. uh-oh. and it ended up in a big ambush that the tribe had set, and during the ambush eight afghan soldiers were killed, four americans were trapped and killed, and i hope this young man -- and he's as rough as he looks, corporal dakota meyer, i hope -- we've been pushing very hard that he should get the medal of honor for what he did. when everybody fell apart, it was corporal meyer who came to the fore, and when his commander choked and didn't know what to do because they were under fire, corporal meyer took over and extricated the other americans, and he killed 16 of the taliban. but what really got to me more than anything else was the treachery that was unexplainable. just unexplainable, came out of nowhere, and i walked away from that and said what do we know
8:11 am
about pashtuns? what do we know about americans? for four years we've been here trying to be niece, and when they got the -- nice, and when they got the chance, they turned just like that. we went into a town, i i won't give the name, but notice the person with the blue arrow ahead of him. for reasons that i won't get into, i'm just a journalist, but sometimes when you're out there with them, you can't help but to know the sources and methods, and it'd be unfair of me to reveal any of them. but the company commander knew that was the man he wanted out of this group, so what he did was he just randomly plucked people as though it was a random search. but he was after the cell phone of this one guy who had been talking to pakistan and been putting in ieds, the improvised explosive devices. and he had killed some of the people in the town who had driven over them as well as i think he'd killed a couple of americans, he'd certainly blown up a few of the american
8:12 am
vehicles. so we had him right there. he reached into his pocket and took out his cell phone and slipped it to the guy next to him who slipped it to the next guy. and none of them knew that, of course, the first sergeant is watching this whole thing, and the minute it got to the end of the line he grabbed the guy and said, give me that cell phone. but what got to me was that man didn't know those other pashtuns. i mean, the odds of his knowing when you just pick people out randomly were very low, but they all cooperated with him right away. and i thought, wait a minute, that guy just killed some of you. what the heck are you doing? this is a picture on the left of the people in the corn koren gal. they were very polite enemies. they were out to kill you, but they would smile at you. you could stand among them like i was doing in this picture, and
8:13 am
they'd just look at you. except when they wanted medical supplies. and the village elders would come up once a week to get their medical supplies at the fort, and then they'd say the rule, 15 minutes and then we start shooting again. i thought, this is bizarre. but what was even more bizarre was that i took this photo, and here's the same man shot the next week attacking a fort in another village. and he had on the bandanna with all the koran markings. we want to be politically correct and say religion has nothing to do with anything and we're all secular, and that's just exactly wrong. the, the's lammic religion -- islamic religion to these tribes has a tinge that very quickly becomes islamists. so while we say they're just $5
8:14 am
a day fighters, and some of them are, some of them are really hard core. and they are terrific liars. i've asked the afghan soldiers who have been with me, can you tell when you talk to somebody, and they said, no way we can tell. no way we can tell. so what you have is a situation, in my judgment, where the people as a whole are watching in the afghanistan while the americans fight. we've confused two things. in america, in afghanistan i see the people as the prize but not the mean of winning the war. and our doctrine is to say if we protect the people, they'll come over to our side and reject the taliban and, therefore, be the means of winning the war. and so you believe one or the other, and i gradually have come to this conclusion, that's wrong.
8:15 am
that's the wrong way of looking at life. you have to win first, then they're going to come over. and don't think that they're going to ten -- to help you to win. this was one of my favorite stories. sergeant cay hell -- cahill, on the right, was an aide to senator kennedy. unfortunately, he was killed shortly after this picture was taken. we went into this one village, and it was in the middle of nowhere. i mean, you couldn't find this village if you tried. they shot one taliban going in, and then we sat down and began our conversations with the villagers. and i had a boston red sox hat on. and one of the elders said to me, what's that? and i said, well, that's the world series champion. they said, baseball, we don't know -- world series, you must be pretty good. and he said, did you ever play for them? i thought, i could get away with this, who's going to know? i said, well, i may have.
8:16 am
he said, what's one of your scores? the i said maybe 8-6, 7-5. and then he talked in pashtun for a minute, and the interpreter was giggling? and he said, because they're used to cricket, and a score in cricket is 100-120. he said he said to the others, now he knows why you're so old, you're such a terrible player, they sent you to afghanistan. [laughter] so he had a good sense of humor, and so we said to him, what do you want? and he gave a list to sergeant cahill that was going to cost about $25,000, what he wants. every single afghan has a list wherever you go. you walk in, you're an american -- here's my list, where's my money? so he said, okay, i'll get you this stuff, but, hey, look, we just had a fire fight, and we had to shoot one guy. do us a favor and tell the taliban to stay out of here so we don't have to do that anymore. or tell us who they are, and we'll take care of them. and this mullah who had been
8:17 am
killing me said, well, how can we do that if you can't? and i thought, out of the mouths of picks. that's up -- babes. that's up north. now, down where the z is, you get into an entirely different situation. you have the runoff of the snows year round from the north, and you have these rivers that cut right through afghanistan in the south, and as a result you have these plains that are terrific for growing anything on either side, and the corps of engineers of the united states of america in the 1940s and 1950s built thousands of canals down there. and as a result, it is highly fertile, and it hooks just like vietnam -- it looks just like vietnam, and it has the same kind of bush that you can hide in, and it's called the green zone because everything's green. it also is, of course, where 90% of the heroin and opium of the world come from, and that's how everyone makes, makes money down
8:18 am
there. down there the fighting is in bursts, and you can't see this, but every single afghan not trusting his neighbor over centuries has built a compound out of mud and straw baked by the sun with walls that are about this thick. a tank cannot knock over those walls. and so they hide behind the walls or inside these compounds and shoot at you knowing when you shoot back, you're not going to do that much damage to them. and that's the nature of the fighting down there. i was just down there last -- two weeks ago in an area called sangin, and this is one of the mags. there were taliban flags everywhere. as the marines move forward, the taliban will fall back, but they brought their flags with 'em. i thought, wow, i'm back in the 15th century, and i turned around, and the marines are
8:19 am
carrying their flags too. and you're gradually pushing against them, pushing against them, pushing against them. and then i thought, you know, why am i surprised by this? then i realized why. the british spent four years in sangin, and they had believed in this win the hearts and minds. and they were wearing soft covers. and the marines came in to take over the position from them, and the british said, oh, and by the way, you can't go any more than 200 yards outside the district because all the rest of it is taliban territory. and the marines said, what? you've been here for four years? well, that's kind of the deal we have. so even after four years, they had spent $60 million, and they had changed nothing in sangin district. now i'll tell you good news before bad news. good news. there's no way the terrorists can win in afghanistan. it just can't happen. it can't happen because of this photo. i never thought i'd see the day
8:20 am
as an infantryman that i was praising the air force or thought that they really helped in our fights. but all that's gone now. we live in a world that i never thought i would see as an infantryman. we have advanced, the united states of america, so far in front of the rest of the world that it's one of the reasons why i don't believe we need as many troops. look at this. on the right-hand side, here's an adviser who's a great young man, and matt was -- is looking through, it's very difficult with those lights, unfortunately, but he's looking through a tiny little scope, and he's looking at this. this is what he's seeing, and you see that white marking? that's a white shroud, and one of these snipers had just hit a taliban about a kilometer away, and an aircraft is up at 25,000 feet and is talking a picture of -- taking a picture of the whole thing, and it's sending it down to matt, who's sitting next to me, and he's looking at the picture. wherever we go with a patrol
8:21 am
today, when i was on these other patrols, when we got into a fight, the first thing the sergeant said was, where's my air? every single company i now, most of them have blimps. there are blimps tethered to the company positions flying at about 5,000 feet so they can't be shot down. but they have a camera that's incredible. it's just like you're watching the super bowl pictures and you're watching the football move, they can see a person if he has a cell phone anywhere, and he tries to put it on his person, you can see him. and they also have f-18s, every f-18 has that kind of a camera, and every unmanned aerial vehicle. this means tactically that when you're on the ground as fast as we get into a fight any place, we are able to call up and someone will be looking down, and we said they're over at 2:00 meaning they're over to our right. they're about 300 meters away, and this voice comes back and
8:22 am
says, yeah, i got a guy on a roof with a long rifle and a couple of other guys with the aks, which one do you want me to take first? take the long rifle, it's probably a sniper. that was an f-18 pilot who's so far up we couldn't even see him. therefore, the notion that the taliban -- how did the taliban take power in the 1990s? well, first, pakistan gave them all the equipment. and, second, once they have all the equipment, they have to move. how do you move in a country twice the size of wyoming? you get on a vehicle. you get on one of two kinds of vehicles; these little pickup trucks or motorcycles. most of the taliban today are equivalent to the 1860s apaches or comanches. they all ride, and they duck and they hide very well with. but they all ride on motorcycles. i mean, it's -- that's their horse. well, there's no such thing as riding anywhere anymore in afghanistan that we're not
8:23 am
watching. and if we're not watching, we can select who is struck. therefore, i'm not, i am not that concerned about the taliban massing because i don't see how they do it. so what i see as the end point here is we're not going to win over the population to try to go against the taliban. forget it. and we're not going to build a modern nation in afghanistan. i mean, karzai is -- what word do i use? all the synapses do not close in president karzai's head, and it's difficult to run a country when you are mercurial beyond understanding. but he may be there for another four years. the issue in afghanistan for us to withdraw is very simple: leave something behind to take care of the taliban, not us. and that happens to be the afghan soldiers. and all they need more than
8:24 am
anything else at this particular point is an infusion and a belief that they can win. that's the most important thing to give them more than anything else. and these are the guys who can do it. i spent a lot of time with our special forces units over there. our special forces units are terrific guys, and they like what they do. they're really good soldiers. and they give us a leverage of about if you put them together, like this unit i was with, the marines gave them a rifle platoon to work with them. so you had ten senior sergeants from the army -- they're all over 30 -- then you had 40 young gunslingers from the marine corps who were probably in their young 20s, and so you had 50 americans and 500 afghans in the battalion. so you had a ratio of about one american for every ten afghan soldiers. and they held their own territory the same as any
8:25 am
american battalion. so when i look at it, i say that afghanistan is the wrong war for our current strategy of nation building. and immediately some of you can say, well, fine, bing, how do you solve the problem of karzai in kabul and the government, and i'm basically sneaking up on it, and i'm saying turkey, south korea, possibly pakistan, egypt. what do they all have in common? tunisia? they have in common an army who was so close to the people that they kept a rein on the government and gradually got on the people's side and became a civilizing force, not a force of repression. and what i'm saying is that the afghan army can be -- let the afghans take care of their own politics, and if that happens to be that the army begins to control karzai to a certain extent, so be it.
8:26 am
i don't think we should continue for another decade with a strategy of nation building. i think we should reduce our forces because we can add advisers and change the ratio. right now the ratio is one american to one afghan. and i'd like to see that ratio be ten afghans, one american. but with that new air power that i've shown you, i'm not leaving somebody out there as a sitting duck. i'm giving those people the power to still control the battlefield. second, reduce the dollars. we don't -- okay, $100 billion is a rounding error, what we've done to ourselves in the last couple of years, but we have to start somewhere. and, honestly, if you give something to somebody for nothing, what do you get in return? nothing. lyndon johnson tried to have the great society, and it ended up with a culture of entitlement. we now have a culture of entitlement in afghanistan for the same reason. we give something, we expect nothing in return.
8:27 am
we can't continue to do that. and i don't think it's good for a country to do it. and lastly, reduce the taliban. stop the nation building and let our forces get back to doing what they do very well, and that is destroying the enemy. so that's why i call it the wrong war. that's all i have to say, and i'm perfectly willing to take any questions that you might have. thank you. [applause] >> hello, mr. west. my name is andy, i'm a researcher in the d.c. metro area. my question for you is, what will need to happen before the afghan government is able to say to the americans, we can take it from here? >> we have to tell them. because if we leave it up to them, andy, they're never going to tell you to go home. why do you want to tell somebody who's the golden imoos to stop -- goose to stop laying the eggs? so it's us who have to say to the afghans, you have to start
8:28 am
stepping forward instead of allowing them to control the pace. and i believe we're getting to the point where we'll do that. pause when i'm out there -- because when i'm out there with the troops, the troops get it. and the troops like fighting, and their reenlistment rates are high, their morale is high as long as they're closing with the enemy. but this notion of just going around building stuff all the time, they don't really believe that's the solution. so i think we have to push them. we can't wait for them to tell us. >> i came in a little late, but someone said something about vietnam which i remember very well. >> so do i. >> that's what i -- that's what i heard. one of our problems in vietnam was we were fighting what they call asymmetry. we had a conventional army, and we were fighting an insurgency. and the government we were fighting with didn't have the
8:29 am
support of its people. and it meant that we lost. even though we had advisers and, eventually, the vietnamese army performed so poorly that americans stepped in and did the combat themselves. why do you think that won't happen here? with an asymmetrical war where we just are grounded to nothing? >> arguing by analogy always becomes difficult from one war to another. >> sure. >> what happened, of course, in vietnam in the intervening variable that wasn't mentioned was that the north vietnamese were supplied by russia and china with 18 divisions of artillery and tanks, and they seized saigon with artillery and tanks. i believe that in afghanistan the taliban cannot mass. they have to be able to mass to go against a city or any large target. i don't believe they can do that, number one, because of the
8:30 am
air that we now have, but number two, also, because pakistan, i don't believe pakistan is going to do again what they did in the 1990s. if pakistan had not been behind the taliban in the 1990s, the taliban would not have seized control. you need in order to have an army somebody who's supplying you, and the pakistanis now are giving it to them with a thimble. they're doing just enough to keep things stirred up, but i don't believe they want to suffer america's wrath by really saying, here, you can have all this equipment. i don't think that's ever going to happen again. >> so what's your view of general petraeus? is he fighting the last war? too big an ego, or is he doing the right thing? >> i, i think -- i don't like to get into personalities -- >> i was thinking of his strategy. >> the, the -- i think our strategy is evolving even as we speak. you notice that for the last six months general petraeus has
8:31 am
begun to emphasize much more what our special operations forces have been doing in order to take out the mid-level cadre on the taliban side. i would hope that gradually, gradually everyone kind of shifts the ship a little bit. but, again, i get back to my philosophy of history. my philosophy of history isn't that the generals do as much as they think the generals are doing. it has to do a lot more with what the young men are doing on the ground. and once we send the signal you no longer have to do nation building, they're going to get back to their basic tasks. they're a military, not a nation-building force, and i think that's the way we're going to go. i think really that's the way we're going to go. i'd be really surprised if the beginning of this summer we didn't start withdrawing our troops. i'd be very surprised if you didn't see us by june saying,
8:32 am
hey, we're starting to wrap this up. >> mr. west, i'm struck by the similarity between what you're saying with the strategy you're recommending mow and both the -- now and both the line that was taken by the u.s. military in the early years in iraq and, for that matter, the strategy that was pursued in afghanistan between 2002 and 2006. when there were 30 to 45,000 mainly special forces or special operations forces, excuse me, troops based at bagram and a grand total of 5,000 international troops in kabul using local lies to track down and destroy the taliban with heavy reliance on technology. it profoundly didn't work. and most analysts of the conflict point to insufficient population security as one of the reasons it didn't work and
8:33 am
the reliance on locals, local war lords, local intermediaries who used us to settle scores. so how exactly with the strategy you're recommending -- would the strategy you're recommending differ from what put us here in the first place? >> well, i think three things. first, it has only been in the last year or two that i have actually seen the maturation of the linkage between our air and ground that i had never seen in 40 years of combat. i mean, that is really -- we have walked a step forward from anything i have ever seen before. second, we're not using local war lords. we now have an entire afghan army. and what i'm saying is put that army out in front the way it should be, that we never had before. and third, i don't believe that the population protection gets us anywhere. gradually, you can have the afghans do it for themselves,
8:34 am
but i think we're just spinning our wheels doing population protection. i think we should get back to our number one mission as we begin to pull out, and i think we're going to, put maximum pressure on the taliban in the way only americans can and build up the afghan army. now, everything's a risk. it could be in the end it doesn't work. the only alternative then would be ha we would purr cyst -- would be that we would persist in what we're doing at the level we're doing it for another decade. and let me give you the statistic. we have 65 battalions, and we have roughly -- well, so we have 240 companies, and each company has three to four outposts if they go all the way down to the platoon level, so we have a thousand outposts now in afghanistan. there are 7,000 pashtun villages. and at 100,000, we're only
8:35 am
taking one-seventh. so even if we did everything right, i look at the arithmetic, and i go, wow. the arithmetic would be overwhelming. >> okay. well, let me follow up. >> sure, please. >> which is, if we're not protecting the population -- >> yeah. >> -- and you have pointed out the elusiveness of the taliban -- >> yeah, yeah. >> exactly how will you find them to kill them? >> oh, i think that comes down to something we, americans, cannot do. we haven't been able to do it. the average soldier, the average grunt sees a taliban only three times in a year. and he may get one or two shots, aimed shots in an entire year. they're not massing. that's why i said, they're like fighting the apaches. we had thousands of american soldiers in the west running around after a few ph chis. a few apaches. the issue becomes whether the
8:36 am
afghan soldiers themselves can do it. but until we try them, we won't know. we only have certain choices, and i'm not sure any choice is going to work. i'm pretty confident my choice is going to work because i don't believe they can mass. but until we actually see the afghans doing the job for themselves, we won't knowment and right now the other thing that bothers me, we haven't turned one district, we haven't turned one district in afghanistan over to afghan control. that really concerns me. even where everyone is saying we did such a terrific job, and we did. i spent a lot of time in this one district in southern afghanistan, and i know the marines are saying to me, hey, bing, when are we going to test it? but there's always a risk, you know? that's why some people think, boy, we'd better watch out for this one. one other thing though. if you ask me, okay, stand back from the particulars, how do i see this thing ending? it's like you're trying to pick the stocks in today's market.
8:37 am
and every one of us knows we're going to fail. no one can pick the stock market. no one. otherwise you'd be a multi, multibillionaire. no one can pick the end in afghanistan. i give it a 10% chance that something happens that none of us could think of today. egypt. i mean, none of us anticipated tunisia, egypt and now libya. so something really wild could happen, and we'd all say why did we miss that? i give it a 10% chance that karzai is gone. don't know how but, you know, he's just no longer part of this equation after a while. something happens. i give it a 40% chance that we'll muddle through the way i'm talking about, we'll gradually pull our forces out, and it'll be okay. and i give it a 40% chance that karzai and the people in kabul pull a henry kissinger, and if you recall, secretary kissinger received the nobel peace prize in 1972 for solving the war in
8:38 am
vietnam, and that there'll be some sort of messy deal between the taliban, the pakistanis and the afghans that will cause all of us to scratch our heads and say, why did we lose all those troops and all that treasure for ten years for that end result? which is another way of saying i don't know what's going to happen in afghanistan. >> i'd like to ask you a question about drone attacks. i think it was in the book "lessons in disaster "they talked about the bombing of north vietnam was intended to soften them and kill their resolve, etc. and from what i understand, post-war interviews of the north vietnamese found that it didn't do that, in fact, it steeled their resolve and really sort of infuriated them. and i know these drone attacks, as i understand it, are controlled by bill gates wannabes in california with their joysticks. >> right. >> now, if i had a family member killed by a drone attack and controlled by a bill gates wannabe 10,000 miles away, i
8:39 am
would be enormously upset. so my question is what is the impact of these drone attacks? when they are surgically applied, that's great. but you read about these things where a family of six is killed, and i think just one of those incidents sets us back so far, that i just question the net effect of the drones. >> you know, i just, i don't know. i mean, you could argue either side of those kinds of things. i don't know. i know what i would do if i were in charge, i'd crank 'em up even more. but that doesn't mean that you're not right and that what we're not doing is just stirring up the hornet's nest. and that get back to this great hole that radical islam -- hold that radical islam really has on these villages out in the middle of nowhere. i just don't know what the answer to that is. i do know one thing, al-qaeda has put the word out which gives you the other side. the question is are you more
8:40 am
concerned about the people, or are you more concerned about getting your enemy who's deliberately hiding? if al-qaeda or taliban were concerned about that, they just wouldn't go with their arms in the compounds with the kids which is that they're trying to use them as a shelter, and we all know they are. al-qaeda put the word out, this is almost a year ago now, no three operatives will go to any outside tea café anywhere in pakistan. and i thought, we're getting to them. that's how scared they are. no three. and they have good reason to be that scared. so no three of them will get together. >> so you would increase the attacks? >> yeah, i would. i mean, i would. but you could figure a marine would give you that answer. [laughter] >> hi. i'm wondering how the afghan army is going to do a better job than the americans, you know, as far as controlling pashtun villages and pashtun regions? i mean, i presume the great majority are non-pashtun, and
8:41 am
other than speaking the language, i'm not sure how they're going to do so much better. >> they don't speak the language. >> well, right, right. yeah. but are there significant numbers of pashtun in the afghan military -- >> no. yeah, yeah. i don't mean to be polly annish, so you're right. look, this is all tribal. the pashtuns are 11 million of the afghans, and they believe that it is their birthright always to be in charge of all the other tribes. we came along and upset that apple cart. okay, we gave them karzai, and they're all in favor of karzai because he's one of theirs even though he's working with the americans, all that kind of stuff. but the army is mostly who come from the northern part of the country who speak dari, and when they get down to the south where i was, they don't speak pashtun. so you're absolutely right. and i've had friends of mine
8:42 am
high up say, come on, bing, you know as well as we that their army is as much an occupying army as we are. to which i say, yeah, i know that, but what other options with are you -- are you giving besides us doing it or this afghan army which isn't the same? the other gentleman is right. there's a core here of those pashtuns that we can't break, so i'm really not sure how this whole thing really ever plays out in the end. i'm more sure, though, that they can't take kabul. but you're right, it's a problem. >> my question picks up a little bit on his, but it's more about the u.s. force structure. you're talking about a warrior culture coupled with a, as we know, an incredibly high-tech supersophisticated advanced technology culture. and you're calling on, you know, for a strategy of advising,
8:43 am
succumbing. do you see that our, this administration and the american culture generally is going to continue to support the evolution of this kind of a very sophisticated grunt, multidimensional culture? because that's -- because we're going to need it elsewhere, too, and there are not that many of these folks to go around. certainly, none of these guys speak pashtun or dari or farsi, what you're saying they need to be able to do. can we do that? >> i'm about to give an answer, but i have to tell you that i did not bring you up to be a prop for my last answer, but it was how i wanted to end. okay, this book is 70% about what our troops are doing every day. it's not about the strategy. i bring that in, but i try to show what's happening on battlefield after battlefield after battlefield. and the grit of these young men which gets to the military ethic. there is -- and it's going to be my next book if i can figure out
8:44 am
how to calibrate it. there is in america a military ethos, a warrior ethos, and you cannot be a strong superpower if you don't have it. and ask, unfortunately, no one in western europe still has it and, unfortunately, it's now gone from the united kingdom which breaks my heart. but it's still here in the united states, and i don't know where it comes from. the units that i know -- grunts that i know are one-half of one-half of 1% of the eligible population. 75% of all males the ages of 18-20 are not physically or mentally capable of being recruited into the military which is scary to begin with in our country. and somehow there's this small group who volunteer for the military, then they volunteer to be riflemen knowing exactly what you do with a rifle. and they want that experience, and they want to be the warriors and guardians. and the interesting thing is
8:45 am
their reenlistment rates are so high now that they can't keep everyone who wants to be in. and i was -- you go out on patrol with these kids, and it's, it's -- i was just -- i shouldn't say kids, but i can because they're my sons and my grandsons. i was just out with this platoon two weeks ago, and this platoon, god bless them, their platoon commander had lost his arm and a leg to one of these malevolent ieds, and this corpsman running to rescue him was blown up and killed. the platoon commander wants to stay on active duty in the marine corps. they also lost two others killed and eight others evacuated, so 12, 12 out of 40 were gone when i got there. and all they wanted to do every day was go out and take the fight to the enemy and make a difference.
8:46 am
and this is what they were doing. they're also scratching on the wall the difference they were making which is what you have to expect of tough kids when they're out there fighting, and they have their flag, and the other side has its flag. but that causes me to believe that we do have this core group, and it is actually larger than we think it is. and the press really hasn't been as careful as they should be in indicating this is a fairly large proportion that will go into harm's way. it's somehow just in their blood. what am i talking about? 70 years of age, and i still do it. so there are certain people who do it, and there are a lot of them. and as long as we keep that warrior e ethos in the -- and the united states of america does, every single person here is proud of the troops. that is so different than what now exists in britain and other places, it's incredible. there's something about the american spirit that i think is great because when i fought in vietnam, i thought toward the end we were losing it, and now
8:47 am
i'm convinced we're not losing it. and that military ethos, that warrior ethos is alive enough so that i am absolutely convinced that we can send advisers over there, trim back, and we can give a pile of forces that we need, not tie them all up in the afghanistan. because right now we just had the pirate attack, and now we have libya. general mattis, who is in charge of the central command, is a werewolf. he's a good friend of mine, but that guy is scary. and i'll be amazed if general mattis doesn't take some action against pirates in a way that will cause everyone's head to spin sometime in the next few months. but we have to recognize we can't have all our forces in afghanistan. we have other uses for these forces. but i think we have enough that we can keep it going. i thank you all very much for spending all this time with me on a rainy night. thank you. [applause]
8:48 am
>> bing west, the the author of several books, served as assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs during the reagan administration. for more on bing west and his work, visit >> booktv has 48 hours of nonfiction authors and book programming every weekend on saturday from 8 a.m. to monday morning at 8 eastern. to get the complete weekend schedule e-mailed to you every week, sign up for the booktv alert at or text the word book to 99702, standard message and data rates apply. booktv, top nonfiction authors and books every weekend on c-span2. >> called eye of the hurricane, my path from darkness to freedom with a forward by nelson mandela. >> guest: yes. and your co-author is ken. >> guest: that is correct. >> host: let me read to you, you say here, my main purpose in
8:49 am
writing this book is to share with you that i have discovered the truth. >> guest: to be the truth. >> host: well, it says, yeah. [laughter] the love of truth is the spirit of man. given where i was and for how long i was there -- this is incredible -- i have no business at all being here now. >> guest: that is absolutely correct. >> host: now, you say that you were in jail 40-something years. what do you mean by that? >> guest: well, i was in jail 47 years. the fact that we are born into a prison actually, when we're born, we're born perfect as perfect beings complete with all of our possibilities intact. but we're also born into a world of sleeping people, the level of unconscious human insanity where hate and wars and death and destruction and inequality reign supreme. so we are actually born into a
8:50 am
prison. so i was in the, i was in that prison for the first 40 years of my life until i was able to wake up and get out of that prison and realize who i really am. >> host: well, let's come to who you really are in a second, but let's just for the viewers' take say you were actually incarcerated in prison for about 20 years, 1964 or 5? >> guest: 1966 to 1985. >> host: '66 to '85. >> guest: that's correct. >> host: and the charge was having murdered three people and wounded one in bar. >> guest: yes. it's just not having murdered somebody. i mean, to be accused of murder is bad enough. but to be accused of being a racist murderer is doubly bad, and that's what i was accused of being, a triple racist murderer. >> host: racist, why racist? >> guest: because all white people were killed. >> host: and was the charge you had somehow targeted them
8:51 am
because of their race? >> guest: because of their race. because a black bartender had been killed by a white man in another part of town that night. they thought this was a racial motive. but you also have to realize those times, at that time, 1966, these were the early '60s when the country was still segregated. you know, when black folks weren't allowed to eat in restaurants or go to school or ride on certain parts of buses or try out of the water town -- drink out of the water fountain or even have equal voting rights at the time. that was what was going on in this country at that time. which was a terrible thing. and so that is what i was accused of being a triple racist murderer. >> host: and in the book you write about growing up in a household that really was violent and difficult, facing your father across the living room with shotguns.
8:52 am
>> guest: yeah. my, my family life was not violent. the violence was outside the family life. but you've got to realize that in may, this may i will be 74 years old. and so my mother and father come from a generation where they thought that if you, if a child put his hands on his parents or even threatened their parents, since they brought you into this world, they will take you out of world as well. that was the type of, of society that i grew up in. >> host: but describe for the people who are watching who might want to read the book why you would be facing your father with a shotgun and he with a shotgun facing you? >> guest: well, because i was a very angry young man at the time. very angry. and i, i confronted my brother. my brother james who was a highly successful academic, i mean, he was going to harvard, he was one of the youngest to
8:53 am
graduate from harvard university with a ph.d.. he later became the superintendent of schools of boston, you know? and i was in and out of reformatory schools during my youth, you know? so my father had to sort of choose between which one he's going to support. and i confronted my brother because when i came home from the military in 1956, i heard that my brother was hanging out with homosexuals. you know? that he had known when we were children growing up i. now, when we were children, all of these folks used to dress up on halloween like women, and they looked better than the women on the streets, you know? but now he was home on vacation from harvard university, and they were doing the same thing. so i confronted my brother about that. and we started to fight. and, of course, i beat him up.
8:54 am
and that's when my father got, that's when my father got involved in this. and my father jumped me because of that. and i pushed my father away and told him down don't put his hands on me, that i wouldn't allow no one to put their hands on me in anger anymore. and so my father ran and got his shotgun, and i ran and got my shotgun. this is the same thing that happened to marvin gaye and his father, and that's why marvin gaye's father shot him -- >> host: kills him. >> guest: and had it not been from my mother, my father would have shot me as well. >> host: because your mother intervened. >> guest: get away. >> host: you just described yourself as, technically, having been in jail for 20 years, '66 to '85, but the violence and the whole world of hatred that you describe, you say that's really been a jail for you for 40-plus
8:55 am
years until you overred yourself. >> guest: oh, yes. >> host: let me read again from your book. this is an interesting moment because you say you're going to be 74 years old. >> guest: yes. >> host: you've been in jail, but you also write here, i was a prize fighter at one point, i was a soldier at one point, i was a convict at one point, i was a jailhouse lawyer at one point. says here you were executive directer of a group that was called association and defense of the wrongly convicted at one point, today you're ceo of the innocence international group. >> guest: yes. >> host: and it says, but if i had to choose an epitaph to be carved on my tombstone -- remember, this is ruben "hurricane" carter speaking, it would simply read he was just enough. >> guest: just enough. >> host: now, this came because somebody in a high school audience, you were speaking to these students, asked you what you'd want for your epitaph. and now, you're a man -- bob dylan wrote a song about you. nelson mandela has written a
8:56 am
forward to this book, and i know he loves boxing. i remember him talking to me how he loves boxing. >> guest: he was a boxer himself. >> host: and then he talks about someone like him who was in jail and has come out of it. so here's nelson mandela, bob dylan, even tony bennett, you say. >> guest: muhammad ali. >> host: these people have all known you, and now it comes time for you to speak about yourself, and you say for your epitaph, it should be he was just enough to have the courage to stand up for his convictions no matter what problems his actions may have caused him, he was just enough to perform a miracle to wake up to escape the universal prison of sleep to regain his humanity in living hell. he was just enough. just enough. >> guest: just enough. >> host: so when people hear this, "just enough," i'm sure they're going to be thinking to themselves, well, just enough to get off or just enough to escape or survive? why not to make something
8:57 am
bolder? >> guest: universeally we are all just enough. that's what that means. we are all universeally just enough. we are born with everything that we need to wake up and to become conscious. that is just enough. >> you can watch this and other programs online at >> you're watching booktv on c-span2, 48 hours of nonfiction authors and books every weekend. >> here are a few upcoming book fairs and festivals from around the country. this weekend booktv is live from the tucson festival of books. visit for a complete schedule of events. the virginia festival of the book will be taking place in charlottesville from march 16th until the 20th. booktv will be airing several events live online on thursday the 17th and friday the 18th. simply visit at the
8:58 am
scheduled time of any live online program and click the watch icon to view i the event. for the schedule of programs that'll be live on, check the upcoming programs section of the page. also in march the 16th annual patchwork tales story telling festival happens in rockville, south carolina. of this three-day event begins on march 17th. is there a book festival happening near you? e-mail the name, date and web site of the event to booktv at >> for the next three hours, author and historian pauline maier, the mit american history professor and expert on the revolutionary period has written several history textbooks including american scripture: making the deck la haitian ration of indepence, and her most recent release, "ratification."
8:59 am
>> host: professor pauline maier, what was the glorious revolution of 1688? >> guest: it was the occasion when the british threw out james ii and brought in william and mary and reconstituted their government. >> host: how did we get from the glorious revolution of 1688 to the american revolution of 1776? >> guest: you just lost et out. [laughter] well, these ideas that informed the glorious revolution that were cited to justify it were, basically, those that continued and were used by americans to justify their revolution in 1776. so there was real continuity. the ideas that were expressed by, well, to name a familiar person, john locke or algernon sydney, other writers of the 17th century and popular writers of the 18th century carried on, and they became basic politicalr truth for americans of the 18thi century. >> host: what were some of those


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on